China is poised to retake its historical position as ‘The Middle Kingdom’ — that is, a preeminent global economic and political leader. But unlike in China’s ancient heyday, it takes the stage among competing power players and within a global liberal order that is frequently at odds with its domestic modus operandi.
In recent years, China has become an active international player in global trade, developing country investment, and environmental standard-setting. Its push to assert global leadership has spurred the rest of the world to challenge the country’s dismal record on human rights and individual freedoms, limit its extensive environmental degradation, and contain its aggressive actions toward neighbors.
China’s history includes a long span as global leader, but in a time when it had few peers to challenge its dominance. Today, it is a key player in global security issues due to its influence on North Korea, territorial competition with its neighbors, and nuclear and cyberwarfare capabilities. There’s a critical need for a check on China’s power precisely at a time when the U.S. has signaled (though inconsistently) that it will play a less active global role going forward.
Though China is increasingly willing to contribute in a constructive way to the complex system of international norms — which implies more cooperation than clashes in the long run — the rest of the world must take steps to ensure it. We’ll discuss how great power politics is shifting and how the ripple effects will impact local economies and individual actors.
Suggested readings for our policy salon on Monday, May 1st:
- America and China’s strategic relationship (April 2017)
For seven decades, America has been the hegemon in East Asia, China’s historical backyard; but now China is indisputably back.
- Beijing is no champion of globalization (Jan. 2017)
China may well emerge as the savior of globalization at some point in the future when its deeds better match its words; global leadership must be earned on merit.
- China in the middle (Jan. 2015)
(NB: Useful primer that gives historical context for the modern geopolitical scenario.) China’s growth enables it to be truly, for the first time, a Eurasian power between East Asia and the West. A pan-peripheral grand strategy would suit it best.
- China steps up as U.S. steps back from global leadership (Jan. 2017)
China is increasingly accepting opportunities to lead on global issues; its domestic development and global ascendance require steady engagement and honest efforts abroad.
- Why China will be able to sell itself as the last liberal great power (Jan. 2017)
(NB: Watch out for the snark, but filled with great links to other resources.) In some respects, China has acted like a responsible stakeholder in the liberal international order, but China is pretty far away from being a free-trader.
Additional articles will be posted to our Facebook page.
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